This summer and increasingly throughout the year, consumers are getting tans sans the sun, and retailers are basking in the afterglow.
Consumers' awareness of the potential dangers of the sun's rays, coupled with their desire to still have that bronzed summer glow, have brightened sales in the sun care category, according to retailers, manufacturers and analysts.
The total sun care category garnered $533 million in sales for the 52-week period ending May 20, a 6.5% jump from last year, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. The sunless and self-tanning category heated up with a 19.3% increase in sales, also during the 52-week period ending May 20, according to ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill.
"Everyone's aware of the melanoma scare," said Gary Mitchler, director of marketing, Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas.
Ted Taft, partner, Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., said one of the biggest developments in the category is the sunless tanning segment. "It's exploding, and new technology is driving it," he said.
Last year's fourth-quarter rollouts of Coppertone's Endless Summer and Bain de Soleil's Radiance Eternelle, both manufactured by Schering-Plough, Madison, N.J., have spurred the segment's sales by touting new technology that allows for a more natural and even-looking sunless tan with faster activation time.
"The Coppertone self-tanner with the dual chamber pump is a revolutionary and unique item that goes against department store-type items," said Jim Denny, director of nonfoods for Chesterfield, Mo.-based Dierbergs Markets. He said sales will grow as consumers get used to the new technology.
According to Fred Duchin, vice president of sun care marketing for Coppertone and Ban de Soleil, sunblocks with low-grade sun protection factors (SPF) have dropped off from 33% to a mere 12% share of the category over a decade, while state-of-the-art sunless tanners have propelled growth in the category. "Ten years ago, sunless tanners were non-existent -- now they capture 20% of the sun care category," Duchin said. "Traditional tanning products (with SPF levels of four and under) have become smaller and smaller every year."
While consumers look to protect themselves from the harmful sun effects all year, analysts said supermarkets have been slow to position sun care as more than a seasonal category.
"People have a tendency to pigeonhole sun care as seasonal, but seeing it year-round is increasingly important," said Taft.
Denny said Dierbergs' middle- and upper-class clientele have been educating themselves about the sun and looking to protect themselves all year. "We've been talking about it for a few years, and I'm really starting to believe it," he said.
Dierbergs' 18 stores display a 6-foot sun care endcap starting in January for the consumers stocking up for winter vacations and Spring Break. The retailer carries 35 stockkeeping units each of Banana Boat and Coppertone products with Ban de Soleil mixed in, while 11 Neutrogena SKUs and 10 SKUs of the value-branded Ocean Potion, manufactured by Sun and Skin Care Research, Cocoa, Fla., are flanked on each side. After Labor Day, Dierbergs breaks the section down.
"Neutrogena has been growing for us," he said. "We're surprised with Ocean Potion; it's done very well for us." He said a 16-ounce bottle of the sunscreen lotion is priced at $4.97, compared to the high-end Neutrogena brand at $8.97 and Coppertone and Banana Boat, both tagged at $7.97.
An anonymous buyer from a Midwestern chain said that while the "lousy summer weather" has gotten sun care sales off to a slow start this year, consumers have been trading up to larger product sizes through bonus packs.
"After-sun products like aloe and Banana Boat Aloe [after-sun lotion] have bonus packs out, and the consumers see the value -- those have done quite well," she said.
She also said No-Ad glitter gel, produced by Solar Cosmetics Labs, Miami, "went right off our shelves. The kids really like it for the summer -- it gives skin that peachy glow."
Carrie Bonner, senior research analyst, Kline & Co., a Little Falls, N.J.-based market research and consulting firm, said loading up two different store sections with sun care products have pushed sales at the drug and mass level, and supermarkets would benefit as well.
"Mass uses double placement near the register and skin care aisle, or a summer seasonal aisle, so that's been helping sales," she said. "Supermarkets could develop synergies with the pharmacy by placing pamphlets that list the benefits of sun care."
Duchin said the drug channel has jumped on the sunless tanning boom by doing a better job of merchandising and giving the products further shelving on a year-round basis.
"The food class of trade represents a tremendous opportunity, but they're behind this year because the sunless tanners are not traditional products at supermarkets," he said.
One health and beauty care buyer at A&P, Montvale, N.J., said supermarkets are "doing more and more to stay competitive, and getting the merchandise out earlier in the season." Although grocery chains are not up to the drug and mass level in the category, he said, "we're getting closer."
To compete with Wal-Mart's large selection, Denny said Dierbergs promotes certain products at 25% off, $2 off or even even 33% off Banana Boat items for the Fourth of July.
Different physical product forms and new uses for specific body parts have proliferated in the sun care category, as well.
"There have been new innovations with gels that have added value to the business," Taft said. "[Supermarkets] have done a good job at capturing those innovations."
SN recently visited a new Stop & Shop unit in Matawan, N.J., that displayed a 3-foot sun care endcap in the health and beauty care section. The store ran a healthy selection of sun care staples and innovative products, including brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat, Neutrogena, Hawaiian Tropic and a private-label option, too. Among the newer products the store carried were $10.49 bottles of 30 SPF Coppertone Bug & Sun lotion, a combination sunblock and insect repellent; Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Spray at $8.99; and Banana Boat SPF 15 Hair and Scalp Protector for $7.99.
Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena, based in New Brunswick, N.J., rolled out innovations like the Sunless Tanning Foam in March 2000, and the 2001 debut of the four-SKU Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 30 and 45 lines of lotions, sticks and sprays has helped propel the brand to a 12.9% dollar-sales increase during the 52-week period ending May 20, according to IRI.
Bonner also said innovations in the level of sun protection have cropped up through incorporation of ingredient Parasol 1789. "It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and has a higher price tag," she said.
It's time for supermarkets to catch some rays all year, and capture more sales in the process, many industry observers say.